|I had a day of leave to use before the end of the month, so we decided to lump it in with Easter and go to Spain for five days. Although Spain is somewhat famous in England for being a popular holiday destination for chav-bastards, we were keen for some sun and to just explore some of the more traditional villages. To ensure that the place we were staying at was OK, we stayed at the same place as Kirsten and Gemma had done 12 months previously.
The package we got from lastminute.com included the use of a hire car for the weekend. Driving on the right hand side of the road was fine, other than a few dodgy moments to start off with. So we flew in at the crack of dawn, picked up the hire car and decided to check out Valencia before heading down the Coast to where we staying near Denia on the Costa Blanca.
Valencia was a great city, but we were pretty buggered, so we spent a lot of time sitting about in the sun drinking espressos (dos cafe solo por favour!). After some distinctly dodgy navigating (including driving around the container port a few times...) we did also check out the America's Cup base. Considering that they only have about 12 months until the start of the competition, they still have a massive amount of work to do. Where the base is is probably worse now than the Auckland viaduct was when they started its regeneration...given that it is in quite a run down part of town, I assume that some people will make some serious money in property speculation between now and the start of the cup...
From Valencia, we drove down the coast and basically crashed. The second morning dawned fine again and we were sitting out eating breakfast on our balcony wondering what we should do when I saw that some random English girls had a guidebook. We basically adopted them, initially to see what we should do, and later to have a couple of good drinking sessions with the excellent (and very cheap) Spanish wine.
So we then spent the next couple of days exploring the villages inland from the Coast - many of the towns (resorts) actually on the coast more resembled Blackpool than anywhere in Spain. The worst of these was Calpe - which was basically a whole lot of really ugly apartments right on the beach front. We tried to go there for lunch, but given that chips and lager was more common than paella, we jumped back in the car and went to a small village for some Tapas. Generally we spent most of the time at the smaller villages, the best of which also had a town market and winery - again, quite a bit of time spent lounging around out in the sun drinking wine and eating Tapas! It was about now that we realised the problem with our accomodation - that it was miles from anywhere and you could not get back from any of the towns / restaurants without someone having to drive.
However, we did go to the beach for a bit - the funniest story being when we when Korina and I were playing a bit of beach tennis and a Spanish lady took exception to us doing so, grabbing the ball, randomly yelling at us in Spanish and then falling over as she attempted to throw the ball away. Apart from the fact that we didn't know what the hell she was talking about, she also had a pathetically weak arm, managing to throw the ball all of about 5 metres...
Other than this, generally speaking my very crap Spanish was good enough to get us around. There were some somewhat amusing discussions centering on my New Zealand English / South American Spanish accent on words, and also that some words were used differently in Spain. For example, in South America, "?Donde est la banyero?" meant 'where is the bathroom?', but when I tried this in a restaurant in Spain I got some very strange looks, and it turns out that 'Aseo' or 'Servicio' is more common than 'Banyero', the former meaning toilets/WC respectively, and the later meaning 'shower'. So you can understand their surprise at the restaurant when confronted by a patron who apparently very urgently needed to use their shower!
I sort of new enough Spanish to basically navigate around as well - although once you get into the small villages, the streets get narrower and narrower until they are basically not fit for cars. Not knowing this, I saw the rapidly narrowing streets as a challenge, which resulted in me getting the car quite stuck at a T-junction and having to back back about 2 km through winding streets!
Another lost in translation moment came when we went to look at what we thought was a historic village in the hills. Admittedly, we the barrier across the road at the start should have alerted us to the fact that all was not as it appeared, but we happily continued on. We came upon the village which initially appeared to be completely deserted. It was quite pretty and serene, if more that a little eerie. As we wandered about, a few of the locals popped out and blathered away to us in incomprehensible Spanish. Eventually I managed to piece together enough of the signs about the place to conclude that the village was at best, a convalesence home, and at worse, some sort of weird Spanish looney bin! Needless to say, it wasn't quite what we expected and shortly after we hit the road and continued on our explorations...
Great to get some sun and have a relaxing few days in Spain - getting back was somewhat more difficult. After our plane was 4.5 hours later arriving into Valencia, by the time we got back to the Mutrix from Gatwick, we had around 1-2 hours before needing to be at work again. I just had to crash for a couple of hours, but got up and somewhat surprisingly, was only a couple of minutes late for work...was pretty jaded the following evening though!